NEW YORK – The Day of Remembrance for the Chian Massacre of 1822 began with a memorial service at the Church of St. Catherine and St. George and continued with a complimentary luncheon, lecture and cultural presentation at the Chian Cultural Center in Astoria.
Fr. John Antonopoulos, pastor emeritus, presided over the Divine Liturgy and spoke about the Ottoman state’s massacre that shocked the civilized world and generated support of the Greek War of Independence.
Nikolaos K. Papagiannakis welcomed the guests and introduced the featured speaker, Sam Chekwas, author, publisher and bookseller.
When Chekwas was asked by Papagiannakis to speak about the massacre, he was inspired and poured himself into the research and writing to produce a lengthy essay. Rather than read it and delay the delightful dance performances by the children of the Federation, he promised to produce a YouTube reading for all to enjoy.
After briefly noting the connection between the Ottoman state’s crimes in 1822 with subsequent genocides committed by Turks and others, including the Jewish Holocaust, he declared that the neglect of the wisdom of Hellenism is at the root of many barbarisms in human history.
Checks devoted his time at the podium to sharing his feelings about the importance of the promotion and preservation of the Hellenism he first discovered by reading an English translation of Antigone as a 12 year-old-boy in Nigeria and then fell in love with as a student in Greece.
The Greek government named Chekwas an Ambassador of Hellenism from translating Greek language works but during his talk he emphasized that all diaspora Greeks have a role to play not only as ambassadors but teachers of Hellenism.
When he is asked to explain his Hellenic passion, he said, in flawless, eloquent Greek that “I cannot give a full answer. You must follow me through the streets of Thessaloniki, Katerini, Kavala, and the Plaka in Athens and of islands like beautiful Chios in order to understand.”
He is the owner of Seaburn Press, which once had a bookstore in Astoria and currently has an online presence. He will soon open a store in Long Island but welcomes an opportunity to return to Astoria.
After noting with deep pride that the this year the school he has established in Nigeria “in a remote place where the government would not build a school for 100 years,” he urged those present not to neglect their duties to the Greek language by making sure every Greek-American has the opportunity to learn Greek.”
One guest noted that the internet gives the community the power to do that whether or not children have access to Greek schools.
Papagiannakis thanked Chekwas and hopes his endeavors will inspire more imitators.
Maria Papagiannakis, president of the Federation’s Women’s Auxiliary, introduced Petros Fourniotis, the instructor for the organization’s three children’s dance troupes.
Fourniotis announced the youngest group would perform dances from various parts of the Greek mainland, the eldest presented dances from Crete, and the intermediate performed Kefalonian dances.
FUNDRAISER FOR ACCIDENT VICTIM
Koula Kalogeras took a moment to invite the guests and all members of the community to support a fundraising event Sunday, June 18 at 1 PM and the Cultural Center to help the family of Christos Mathios, who is now in a coma as a result of a car accident. For information call the Federation at 718-204-2550.